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Written by: Juan Proll on 23 November 2022

The 5 most beautiful islands to visit in Tanzania

Best Islands - Tanzania

Tanzania is one of Africa’s most popular safari and trekking destinations. Many people like to relax on one of the country’s islands after a holiday on the mainland. In today’s blog, we will introduce you to the five most beautiful islands in Tanzania and interesting oases of relaxation with overnight-accommodation.

Aerial view Mnemba
Photo: andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge

Paradise beaches, turquoise waters and a relaxing atmosphere abound on Tanzania’s islands. After a Kilimanjaro trek or a safari in one of the country’s most popular game reserves, many people opt for an island holiday. Today’s blog will show you five islands that are especially worth a visit if you’re spoilt for choice.

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Zanzibar – Unguja

Zanzibar is without a doubt the most popular and best known of all the islands in Tanzania. Even its name already sounds dreamy! It is quite possible that Freddy Mercury, the island’s most famous son, drew inspiration from the beauty of the island when composing his songs “We are the champions” and “We will rock you”. You can visit his birthplace in the old town of Stone Town. In addition to being a UNESCO world heritage, Stone Town has a lush oriental vibe that may remind you of 1001 nights.

Stone Town Zanzibar

If even small city life overwhelms you, you can instead stroll along the turquoise water or lie dreamy at the beach beneath the gently blowing palm trees. As calm and inconspicuous Zanzibar is located in the Indian Ocean, so tempestuous its history: Christianity is replacing Islam, Islam is replacing Christianity. It was once the trading centre of the Indian Ocean, the hub of the eastern slave market, then a British protectorate, later a federal state of independent Tanzania, and now the country’s favourite water sports and seaside resort. We can also recommend the spice tours. A boat or plane can easily take you to Zanzibar, which is situated just 40 kilometres ashore Tanzania’s east coast.

Only few people know that the name Zanzibar refers to the Zanzibar Archipelago. Part of it are some islands, like Unguja, which most people incorrectly refer to as Zanzibar.

Best Island Tanzania

In this blog, we share why Zanzibar in particular is worth visiting.

Changuu Island – the prison island

North of Stone Town, located in the Indian Ocean, you can find the small prison island Changuu Island. The name prison island might sound intimidating. But there is nothing to be worried about other than being attacked by its turtles. Several Aldabra giant tortoises live on the island. They have a special quality, which is being able to drink water with their nose. It wasn’t easy to keep the population of these magnificent specimens alive. Stealing and selling them were likely to occur. This is unlikely to happen to you as you traverse the 800 m long island or sunbathe on its beautiful beach.

At this point, you might be thinking that the thieves have been caught and imprisoned on Changuu, the Alcatraz of Zanzibar. But no. On the contrary, the Arab slave traders initially used this secluded location to chastise the enslaved people for their rebelliousness before selling them off on the slave market. Later, the British governor established a prison for violent criminals. But a deadly epidemic changed everything drastically. Instead of criminals, yellow fever suspects arrived. Quarantine instead of prison, isolation island instead of prison island. And like this, the prison turned into a hospital. The old prison is still there, and its cells can be visited. But instead of locking up criminals, they are protecting giant tortoises. Although there are a few cottages on the small island, most visitors choose to come to Changuu Island for a day or half-day trip. You can reach the island easily via boat from Stone Town.


Pemba Island also belongs to the Zanzibar Archipelago and is from our perspective one of the most beautiful islands in Tanzania. It is more fruitful, hilly, and calm than its bigger neighbour Unguja. It might still be a bit of an insider’s tip, but the second-biggest island of the Zanzibar Archipelago is becoming more and more popular. Dense forests, breathtaking beaches, as well as dive sites rich in fish and corals, attract more and more tourists.

Fundu Lagoon Lodge Pemba
Photo: Fundu Lagoon Lodge

The times of unreliable power supply are also over. Until 2010, Pemba had to rely on its own power supply. The reason was the deep trench between Pemba, Unguja, and the mainland. But nowadays, there is a submarine cable. For those who need it, power now comes from a plug. Pure nature is preserved.

Mafia Island

Mafia and its neighbouring islands are the most southern ones of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Mafia island is also located south off Dar es Salaam. Although smaller than the others, it is a real paradise for diving and snorkelling. This is due to its sheltered location, the many small surrounding islands and the adjacent coral reef.

Two things are special about Mafia Island in particular: The 17-kilometre-wide Mafia Channel that separates the island from the mainland is the habitat of the fork-tailed dugong, an extremely rare marine mammal. Sea turtles lay their eggs on the East Coast in the protected marine park of Mafia Island.

Mafia Island Pole Pole Bungalows
Photo: Pole Pole Bungalows

The marine park area also protects the coral reefs, which are well worth seeing and make the island even more popular amongst divers and snorkelling lovers. For us, Mafia Island is one of the most beautiful islands in Tanzania.

Mnemba Island

The true luxury category of island experiences is the private holiday island, Mnemba Island. It is located about 3 km north off the main island Unguja, and home to the “andBeyond” resort. Whoever wants to treat themselves with exclusivity, can enjoy all the advantages of a private island: daily visitors are not wanted here. This gives resort guests unlimited access to the island’s white sand beaches, blue and turquoise waters, dense forests, and coral reefs.

Mnemba Island Lodge
Photo: andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge

Tanzania’s islands are becoming more and more popular as tourist destinations. Not only for those who are looking for relaxation, but also those who want to discover the underwater life and coral reefs. They ar definitely worth a visit. We are always happy to support you in planning your Tanzania trip. With our office on site in Arusha, we are always well-informed about the current situation. Reach out to us!

Author: Juan Proll

Traveling has always been Juan Proll's great passion: three years in Latin America, two years in Southeast Asia and Oceania as well as short trips of up to nine months in Europe, Central America, and North Africa. In 2010, he decided to quit his job in Germany as an adult education teacher and head of department for migration issues and to become a ranger in South Africa. Juan has been traveling across Africa since 2011, traveling to southern and eastern Africa and also climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Beforehand, he completed his nature guide training in South Africa and worked in a Big Five game reserve. With further training and intensive self-study to become a cultural guide, Juan has since expanded his field of activity beyond the natural world to include the countries, cultures, and its people. In mid-2013 he joined Africa-Experience and has been guiding travelers through Africa as a safari guide ever since. Juan is a member of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa.

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